Archive for August, 2011

“Portfolio” beats low-fat diet for lowering cholesterol

Howard LeWine, M.D.

Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

When it comes to lowering cholesterol, a “portfolio” diet that includes cholesterol-lowering foods is better. In a head-to-head trial, the portfolio approach lowered harmful LDL by 13%, compared to a 3% reduction for a traditional low-fat diet. Elements of the portfolio diet included a daily handful of nuts; two teaspoons of margarine enriched with plant sterols; two servings of foods rich in soluble fiber, such as oatmeal, psyllium-enriched cereals, barley, and vegetables such as okra and eggplant; and two servings of soy-based foods, such as a glass of soy milk or a soy burger.

Vitamin E doesn’t offer protection against prostate cancer

Marc B. Garnick, M.D.

Editor in Chief,

Although a recent article on healthy aging in the Washington Post suggested that taking vitamin E can help men prevent prostate and other cancers, that isn’t what the evidence shows.

Painful, disabling interstitial cystitis often goes undiagnosed

Carolyn Schatz

Former Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Millions of Americans—most of them women—suffer from a bladder condition known as interstitial cystitis. According to a new study of this disorder, fewer than 10% of women with symptoms of interstitial cystitis are actually diagnosed with the disorder, even though it severely affects their lives. Without a proper diagnosis, women with interstitial cystitis are missing […]

How do you know if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Ann MacDonald

Contributor, Harvard Health

Are you worried that certain rituals might be obsessive or compulsive? If they aren’t interfering with your ability to function, relax. It’s obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) only when obsessions and compulsive behavior become so severe that they interfere with your ability to work or have relationships. These behaviors help people with OCD deal with overwhelming feelings of anxiety that are usually triggered by intrusive images and thoughts, explains Dr. Jeff Szymanski, a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of The Perfectionist’s Handbook, which will be published in September. A combination of medications and psychotherapy can help many people with OCD live more balanced lives. A mainstay of treatment is called exposure and response prevention—a sort of “face your fears” therapy.